Reporting from Washington — In a two-day swing through Illinois, Missouri and Iowa that begins Tuesday, President Obama will visit communities hit hard by the recession and tour two biofuel plants as he rolls out a special version of his election-year pitch aimed at rural America.
In tow will be Cabinet members and advisors from the Midwest, all armed with a new White House report that touts success in many of the president's initiatives to help the rural economy and that points to the potential effect of proposals still in the works.
As part of his so-called White House to Main Street tour, Obama will talk about the security and national economic interests at stake in his efforts to promote the use of biofuels — and about how they would help agricultural areas.
"Demand for biofuels increases refining activity, and increases demand for particular crops," said Christina Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers and the White House's chief economist. "Renewable energy has a disproportionate effect on rural communities, as wind and solar tends to be placed there.… We think the renewable fuel standard will be a source of continuing demand."
Obama is not planning to unveil plans or policies during his trip, Romer said, but rather will seek to "shed light on problems" facing Americans in the three states. On the whole, the 50 million people who live in rural areas of the U.S. earn less, contributing to higher poverty rates compared with urban areas.
The heartland is home to a number of competitive congressional races in this year's midterm elections. Analysts are predicting losses for Democrats, possibly steep enough to serve as a rebuke of Obama's policies.
The president plans to talk mostly about the economy and to emphasize how federal stimulus spending and other policies have helped fend off a depression. His healthcare overhaul and education and small-business initiatives are also part of the sales pitch to rural voters.
Republicans are planning protests as Obama makes his way through the tri-state area. The Iowa GOP has organized a rally in advance of Obama's Tuesday stop in Ottumwa, where the president has scheduled a town hall meeting at Indian Hills Community College.
Obama will also visit Fort Madison, Iowa, to see the Siemens Energy Inc. plant, where blades for wind turbines are manufactured. The facility received $3.5 million in recovery act tax credits, administration officials said. On Wednesday, Obama will visit Poet Biorefining in Macon, Mo., the White House said.